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Tigers tear Saints to shreds

Richmond has continued its march towards September with yet another convincing win, this time defeating St Kilda by 64 points at the MCG.

Just three seasons ago these two teams were at opposite ends of the table with St Kilda the team that had just played in two straight Grand Finals and Richmond the team that continued to underachieve in the middle parts of the ladder.

Whenever these two sides met it would be a no brainer for punters to back the Saints, who had had the wood over the Tigers for the best part of a decade.

This is no longer the case.

For the first time in years, Richmond appears set to break their finals hoodoo, with a team strong enough all over the field to achieve this.

The young and rebuilding Saints are looking at a bottom four appearance in season 2013, a fall from grace for a team who was challenging for premierships just three years ago.

For the fourth straight week the Tigers have easily accounted for their opponent, taking them apart through the middle of the ground. This has been largely due to the vast improvement in the team’s fringe players such as Reece Conca, Brandon Ellis, and Daniel Jackson, all of whom have provided valuable decoys for the likes of Trent Cotchin, and Brett Deledio.

However they have proved to be more than just decoys this season with all three, plus others including Nathan Foley, just as damaging as their superstar teammates.

Finally it appears the Tigers have a forward line that is potent enough to effectively produce big scores week in week out, along with giving opposition coaches headaches on who to match up on.

Tyrone Vickery was excellent yesterday, taking a team-high 11 marks, both in attack but also working hard to support his backline, often shutting down St Kilda attacks before they could gather momentum.

However it is Vickery’s inconsistency that costs him as a player, one week producing a best on ground performance, the next week close to being his team’s worst player. If he can find that consistency and become the strong second ruck/forward the Tigers desperately need him to become they will have a valuable asset come finals time, if they indeed make it.

Like Vickery, Aaron Edwards worked hard all night providing a strong marking target up forward, but also pushing to intercept across half back.

Recruited as a backup player, Edwards appears capable of being more than just that, he may well be one of the many missing links the Tigers have needed in previous seasons.

He ultimately may be the difference as to whether this team has a damaging forward line that can match it with the likes of Hawthorn, and Geelong.

While on the other hand, the Saints appear to be set for a very slow climb back to the heights they once reached.

Like sides such as the Western Bulldogs and Melbourne, St Kilda is a very young team set to become even younger in years to come with the likes of Nick Riewoldt,Leigh  Montagna, Lenny Hayes, and Nick Dal Santo getting on in age.

They desperately need new leaders to stand up, and they look to have a few who can help lead the re-build.

Jack Steven is a talent, while David Armitage finally appears to be finding enough consistency to help his team week in week out.

Ben McEvoy will lead from the middle of the ground, while there is enough liveliness in the Murdoch’s and Wright’s of the team to give fans a glimpse of the future.

What St Kilda needs even more desperately at the moment is a big key defender. Rhys Stanley has been tried in this position, and although on occasions he has appeared to be quite good, he is not the player the Saints want in this position.

The Saints backline was monstered by their taller opponents in Jack Riewoldt and Vickery, with Dempster and Gwilt failing to match it in the air due to their lack of height.

For the rest of the season the big question remains – are the Tigers finally good enough to make the eight?

We’ll soon find out, with the Tigers facing tough games against top four teams, and other finals hopefuls, starting Saturday afternoon at Etihad Stadium against North Melbourne.

For  the Saints, the question is how much more improvement – if any – can they get out of their younger players for the rest of the season, and what they can take into season 2014.

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